Pokémon Yellow Version – Game Boy Color
Platform: Game Boy Color
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date (NA): October 18th, 1999
Genre: Role-Playing Game
Nerd Rating: 10 out of 10
Pokémon… the epitome of my childhood. Countless hours spent exploring, grinding, and capturing Pokémon in order to make the perfect team. I remember when I first received a Game Boy Color for my birthday along with the only video game I had ever wanted: Pokémon Yellow Version. My adventure began before I had even started the first grade, and before I knew it I was playing every subsequent Pokémon game as it was released in the US. Though Pokémon Yellow was originally released on the Game Boy, I initially played on a GBC. Therefore, any and all experience I have with Pokémon is using a GBC.
In Pokémon Yellow the player takes on the role of a young boy who is about to take on his journey to become a Pokémon Master. A brief tutorial explains to players that the world is inhabited by humans and creatures called “Pokémon” that live in harmony together. Some humans keep Pokémon as pets, while others use them in battles in order to obtain honor, power, or money. Players are then prompted to select from several preset names for their character, (Yellow, Ash, and Jack) or they may choose to create a new name. For the sake of continuity and familiarity, we’ll call our adventurer Ash throughout this review. Once the player chooses his or her name, they’re then given the option of choosing their rival’s name. For me this is the best chance to give yourself some lols, as this name will be spoken quite often. If you want your rival to address himself as Gary, he will. However, if you want a good laugh throughout the game, you can choose to name him something like, I dunno…Assface, and he will refer to himself as Assface. Hilarious! When I was a kid, the names I gave my rival each playthrough would cause me to bust out laughing, but probably would have gotten me grounded had my parents known. Anyways, we’ll refer to our rival as Gary for the same reasons our protagonist is called Ash.
After the player picks their name and their rival’s, it’s time to start the real adventure. Ash starts off in his bedroom with a classic CRT TV in the center and an SNES connected to it. In the corner of the room is a PC which acts as Ash’s storage center. The PC is able to hold up to 50 different items, while the player can only hold 20 items at a time. Although there are many items throughout the game, most items are stackable or are used quite often dependent on the players play style, but this is a great place to “bank” if needed. In the opposite corner of the room is a stairway that leads downstairs where Ash’s mother is waiting for him. The controls in Pokémon Yellow are simple; the directional pad inputs the direction your character will move, the A button is the interact and option selection button, the B button will back out of the menu/conversation. Start brings up the Menu. This gives the player a lot of different options such as viewing the items in their bag, viewing and managing their party Pokémon, checking stats, and changing the game’s options. The player may also save their game from the Menu. The Select button on is used for an item Ash can use to be hot-keyed. For example, when Ash receives a bike, the player may hotkey the bike to the Select button and then will hop on anytime Select is pressed. After a brief conversation with Ash’s mom, the player is free to head out into the world of Kanto (the continent the game is set in). Kanto is home to many NPCs that give Ash advice, items, hints, and sometimes even Pokemon! So it’s a good idea to talk to everyone Ash comes across.
I should also mention the means that Ash uses to get around. A majority of the game will be spent walking everywhere. Walking or riding a bike in tall grass or in caves will attract wild Pokémon for Ash to capture or battle. After a while Ash is awarded a bike that allows him to travel twice as fast. Nice! As Ash progresses, he will need to traverse sea and air as well. These means of travel, called Hidden Machines (HMs), are unlocked by talking to certain NPCs and completing Gym battles. Surf, Fly, and Cut are three of the most important HMs Ash’s Pokémon can use to get around. Surf allows Ash to ride on the back of a Pokémon across water. Fly allows Ash to be transported to a city or town he’s already visited with the simple press of a button. Cut will help Ash reach areas blocked off by small trees, granting him access to shortcuts as well as some otherwise unreachable items. Be warned though, once a Pokémon is taught one of these moves, they can’t unlearn them and are stuck with them the rest of the game. Personally, I find Surf and Fly to be among the best moves in Pokémon Yellow and I typically will teach them to some of my main Pokémon.
Pokémon Yellow is different from Pokémon Red or Pokémon Blue primarily because players are unable to choose between the usual starters: Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur. Professor Oak is Ash’s mentor throughout the game, and is the one to give trainers their first Pokémon. Ash finds out he’s overslept, and all of the other starters have already been taken. In Yellow Version the player is gifted a Pikachu Professor Oak catches, and Pikachu follows Ash around so long as he is in his Pokémon party. Having Pikachu follow Ash around is neat because you can actually interact with him to see his status and feelings towards Ash. Once Ash is acquainted with Pikachu, he performs a simple task for Oak and is awarded a Pokédex, a device that keeps a record of all Pokemon Ash encounters and catches. He also provides Ash with some Pokéballs to get him started. Pokéballs are the items Ash will use to capture Pokémon. As the game progresses and Ash catches more Pokémon, some of Oak’s aids will offer Ash rewards for having recorded various amounts of Pokémon in the Pokédex. These rewards are not extremely important for Ash’s success. Though some of them can be of great help to him, Ash’s main objective is not how many Pokémon he can catch, but what he can do with the Pokémon he does catch.
The story in Pokémon Yellow is linear in the sense that while Ash has the option to catch ’em all, he doesn’t really have an option as to how to progress. He must battle and defeat many powerful trainers and Pokémon to become a Pokémon Master. Throughout all Pokémon games, the player is tasked with collecting badges from the Gym Leaders in each city and town he or she passes through. Gym Leaders act as the game’s bosses, as they are the most powerful trainers in their area. Overcoming the Gyms’ challenges rewards Ash with a special move, money, the ability to command higher level Pokémon, and a Gym Badge. In Pokémon Yellow Version, the first Gym Leader is Brock, a rock type trainer. A Pokémon’s type plays a vital role in the strategy Ash must use when battling wild Pokémon as well as other trainers. Brock’s rock type Pokémon are super effective against Ash’s electric type Pikachu making the game’s first milestone an incredibly difficult one to pass to a newbie player. There are eight Gym Leaders in total, each with different Pokémon types and fighting styles. Some play all out offence, some utilize a solid defense, while others weaken or confuse Ash’s Pokémon before attacking with devastating power. There are several other NPCs that Ash must communicate with in order to progress. Besides Gary, Ash’s primary adversary is the nefarious Team Rocket. Throughout Pokémon, Ash will have to battle waves of Team Rocket grunts and navigate maze-like corridors fending off the evil Pokémon coalition. Which brings me to my next point–battling!
Battling in Pokémon Yellow is easy. Essentially, there are two kinds of battle: battles with trainers and battles with wild Pokémon. Each battle provides Ash with money, and/or his Pokemon with experience. If he loses, he pays off his opponent, and must report to a Pokémon Center to heal. Ash must battle to level up his Pokémon team to make them strong enough to defeat his opponents. The level cap in Pokémon Yellow is level 100, which each Pokémon can reach through battling or by using a Rare Candy (an item that instantly advances Pokémon to the next level). At the start of each battle, Ash has the option to fight, use an item, swap out Pokémon, or run if facing off against a wild Pokémon. If he chooses to stand and fight, a list of four moves appears for Ash to select. Each Pokémon can learn only four moves at a time, each with a unique ability. Some moves boost the stats of Ash’s Pokémon, others drop the stats of the opponent’s. There are several main stats that effect the performance of battling Pokémon. Attack, Special Attack, Defense, and Special Defense effect a Pokémon’s ability to dole out damage as well as take it. HP refers to a Pokémon’s Hit Points. Speed, affects evasiveness as well as the order in which Pokémon attack, or how many attacks one can fit into a single turn. Some attacks place what are called “status effects” on the Pokémon they target. Poison, Sleep, Paralysis, and Burn all effect Ash’s Pokémon in and out of battle, and don’t change when he exits combat. Poison chips away at Pokémon’s health each turn in battle (sometimes at an increasing rate!) and with every other step Ash takes outside of battle. Paralysis occasionally prevents a Pokémon’s movement, essentially costing Ash a turn to deal damage. Sleep causes a Pokémon to fall asleep for 3-5 turns in battle, making them utterly useless until they reawaken.
Burn has a similar effect to Poison, however it does not carry over outside of battle. To fix these issues and others, Ash must either use specific items or visit Pokémon Centers, which allow him to heal all health and status issues with his entire party. Using items is crucial in Pokémon Yellow as items can heal Pokémon, increase stats, help Ash escape from a tricky maze, and allow him to capture Pokémon. Swapping Pokémon can also play a huge role in turning the tides of battle. The way players battle in Yellow Version directly impacts gameplay; therefore, it is important for them to optimize the way they do it. It’s impossible to progress without battling.
Ash can catch a great deal of Pokémon using different kinds of Pokéballs, but Nintendo included an interesting feature throughout all of the Pokémon titles: none of the games have all 151 Pokemon in them! One can only be obtained through extremely rare special events, or via this glitch. This feature requires those playing Pokémon Yellow to trade with players of Pokémon Red or Blue in order to complete their Pokédex. Each game has their advantages and disadvantages to the kinds of Pokemon available for capture. While there are NPCs that will trade common Pokémon for rare ones or some Pokémon that are not available in that particular game, they don’t flesh out the totality of all 151. For example, in Pokémon Yellow, the player does not get to pick their starter from the selection of rare Pokémon at the game’s start, but they are offered each one through different NPCs throughout the game. Other ways to collect Pokémon is through leveling up and evolving them. Pikachu evolves into Raichu at a certain level.
This changes the Pokémon’s appearance, stats, and the moves it can learn. Most Pokémon have at least one evolution, but others have three or four evolutionary forms. Some of them require certain objects to evolve; for example, Clefairy evolves into Clefable when a Moon Stone is used on it. Then there are the select few “Power Pokémon,” as I like to call them, that only evolve through trade. Although completing Ash’s Pokédex is not the primary objective in Pokémon Yellow, it gives the completionist in all of us something to reach for. Having a wide variety of all types of Pokémon can allow players to experiment with how they battle, and allows them to form the perfect team for facing off against the Elite Four.
The Elite Four and the Pokémon League are an optional obstacle for Ash to overcome once all eight Gyms are completed. It’s composed of the four most powerful trainers, stronger than any Gym Leader Ash as faced as of yet, and the Pokémon Champion. These trainers all use Pokémon of various types and utilize tactics (far more intense than the Gym Leaders’) that cause Ash to have to think on his toes. Bring a varied team of powerful Pokémon when polishing these guys off! Each member uses an incredibly powerful team and can wipe Ash out rather quickly if he is unprepared. Before reaching the Elite Four, Ash must traverse Victory Road. This cave is full of powerful Pokémon that can, in some cases, only be found there. It’s an excellent place for grinding out a few levels before facing off against the Elite Four. Victory Road is also home to one of the Legendary Bird Pokémon, Moltres. After conquering Victory Road, demolishing the Elite Four, and taking his place as the Pokémon Champion, there really isn’t too much more he can accomplish. The first thing I do is go find Mewtwo, a monstrous Pokémon hidden away in a previously inaccessible cave, and capture him. Other than that, players can have Ash complete his Pokédex or they can start a new game and a new adventure.
For me, Pokémon games are by far one of the best retro games to play. They have tremendous replay value, various challenges to make the games more interesting, and are overall just awesome games. I gave Pokémon Yellow Version at nerd rating of 10 because it is simple yet beautiful, and it gives players countless hours of play time. No game comes without it’s frustrations, but for me this game makes the frustration all that more rewarding. Whether it comes from catching a tough-to-catch Legendary or defeating a Gym Leader after my tenth attempt, I always find myself smiling like a child again. If you’ve got an old Game Boy or Game Boy Color lying around, grab yourself a copy of Pokemon Yellow, sit down, and enjoy the ride.
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